Working with Carmen is all about walking a fine line. Push her too hard and she resists strongly. Don't ask enough and she'll take over. She needs a leader but is not always interested in following. It appears that working with a sensitive mare requires a lot of negotiation.
I'm trying to push her just enough to get her to listen without sending her too far away. Sometimes I over do, sometimes I under-do and sometimes I get it just right.
Yesterday I got her ready for our work. She was a bit restless in the cross ties but very mannerly. We have brought in a load of hay and Ed has strung up a tarp to protect it from the sun. I like to keep the barn doors open for the breeze but it bleaches the hay. The tarp is right across from Carmen's stall and it's a perfect way to get her used to flapping/hanging things. We walked by it out of the barn without an issue.
In the ring we started our ground work. I try to alter where I start so she doesn't think that we always do the same thing. I don't worry about how much she exercises her body- I want to exercise her mind. What we do depends on how she is. I spend a lot of time at troll-corner so that she can learn that it really is safe.
When I went to get on she became a bit tense. So rather than get right on I spent some time working with her at the mounting block so that would stand. I finally got on. I realized that she was feeling tight and a bit tense. We spent some time walking patterns and I was trying to figure out whether we'd be better off moving into trot. I have the 4 cavelletti/trotting poles set up so that she has to go between the them and the rail. There is a lot of brush that blows and she was really uncertain of it. I didn't want us to bang into the cavellettis because she wasn't paying attention. I also don't want to argue with her head placement. So I placed my inside hand at her shoulder and kept my inside leg at the girth to create a bit of a wall. Her head was bent to the outside and I would ask her softly with my ring finger to come back but I didn't insist.
We then picked up a trot and it just seemed that she was a bit of a powder keg. I thought about getting off and doing more lunging but decided to stick it out. Rather than try to up my control by stronger legs and hands I softened both and simply rode her forward. I did my best to keep my hands consistent (not easy at all on a wiggly, gawky horse). When she was good I praised her and ignored the silliness.
As we trotted around a circle she scooted into a canter. I let it go and rode it forward. As we did she began to blow and stretch her neck. I rode a circle a few times and then we went up the long side, making 20 metre circles as we went. She fell out of the canter once (spook) and I just let her settle into trot and then asked for the canter again. She picked it up and we carried on. I then introduced trot-canter-trot-canter transitions.
Finally we trotted and then walked. I let her take the reins down to stretch. That always feels like a catch-22: I want her to stretch but want some rein in case she spooks. What I do is keep one hand on the buckle and with the other made a circle with my thumb and forefinger. When her head would come up I would draw the rein up through the circle so I could take it if needed. This worked well and she started to march and stretch out.
After a bit I picked up the reins and we cantered in the other direction. This is typically her 'bad' way (to the right) but she was fine. I didn't spend much time at canter. We came back to walk and I wanted to work on getting her to bend with my seat and leg and not be ignoring me to look around. I walked a bending line: